Archive for the 'Archive' Category

Paper Collecting: A Peek into the Archives

Did you know that in addition to keeping records that document the Museum’s activities from the past to the present for the future, the DMA Archives also collects personal papers from Dallas-based artists and galleries? I’ve previously highlighted a few things from these collections—here, here, and here are a few examples—but it has been awhile. As our quadrant galleries currently feature a group of exhibitions by female artists in the DMA’s collection, here are a few cool things from archival special collections of women artists and a women-run cooperative gallery.

Color Equations installation photo book, Pamela Nelson Papers

Artist Pamela Nelson has done a number of public art projects around Dallas. One of my favorites is Color Equations at NorthPark Center, which she created with author Robert A. Wilson. The Pamela Nelson Papers contain preliminary sketches, design and fabrication plans, and the catalogue for the initial installation exhibition.

Color Equations, Pamela Nelson Papers

Color Equations, Pamela Nelson Papers

While less visual, the exhibition list from the Coreen Mary Spellman Papers is incredibly useful for someone researching Spellman’s work, as it documents the exhibitions in which her work appeared and which works were accepted for the show.

 

The DMA Archives also holds records from the DW Gallery, also known as the Dallas Women’s Gallery. The gallery was founded in 1975 by Linda Samuels with several other women. It was incorporated in 1978, and later managed by Diana Block from 1981 until it closed in 1988. In addition to administrative, legal, and artist records, the collection also contains textiles—T-shirts promoting the gallery.

DW Gallery T-shirts

Information about these and other special collections in the DMA Archives can be found at DMA.org/research/archives or in the library catalog.

Hillary Bober is the Archivist at the Dallas Museum of Art. 

Second Blooming

Alexander Calder’s Flower is back in the galleries after undergoing recent treatment in the Objects Conservation Lab. This mobile, a highlight of the collection, was given to the Museum in 1949, after it was commissioned for the Dallas Garden Club Flower Show by Mrs. Alex Camp and the Dallas Garden Club. The acquisition marked the beginning of the Museum’s contemporary art collection.

Fig03

An early photo of Flower from the DMA Archives.

In recent decades, Flower has not flowed or moved as Calder originally intended because of damage that occurred in 1979. While installed at the Museum’s former home in Fair Park, the mobile fell two stories and crashed to the ground after its hanging attachment failed. This caused loss of paint and some minor structural changes to the mobile’s elements. Because the piece is very carefully balanced in its construction, and weighs only four pounds overall, these slight deformations created noticeable alterations in how the mobile moved. Paint losses were addressed at the time, but all attempts to return the mobile to its original form were ultimately unsuccessful.

In preparation for Flower’s current display, DMA Associate Objects Conservator Fran Baas and I performed a conservation treatment this past fall. Our work enabled the mobile to move again in a way that more closely represents Calder’s original design. It also provided a unique opportunity to learn more about Flower’s history.

 

As we worked with DMA Archivist Hillary Bober to examine Calder’s original 1949 drawings and archival photographs of an early 1950s installation, subtle differences became clear. Most notably, one central metal hook was bent in an entirely different position than it had been. The changed areas were carefully manipulated back to their original positions to the extent that was safely possible. Although these repairs were very small, they created big changes in how the mobile moves overall.

Fig04

Flower on display after recent conservation treatment.

After many years, Flower finally hangs in a way that is much closer to what Calder intended. This beautiful floating sculpture is now on view in the Museum’s Concourse overlook on Level 3.

Elena Torok is the Assistant Objects Conservator at the DMA.

 

A Caribbean-Style Blast from the Past

Whenever I peruse the DMA’s photography collections in the archives, I find something unique in history that catches my eye. Sprinkle a bit of research on top, and voilà . . . I’ve uncovered something for Uncrated!

This time my interest was sparked when I saw this photo of a palm tree in the galleries. And my curiosity grew when I spied a Carmen Miranda-esque basket of fruit and oversize seashells next to it.

Gulf Caribbean International Art Exhibition, June 3–July 13, 1956
Southern Methodist University, Hamon Arts Library, Bywaters Special Collections Gift of Dr. Richard Bywaters and Mrs. Jerry Bywaters Cochran

The palm tree, and the other Caribbean-type accoutrements, added to the atmosphere of the DMFA’s installation of the Gulf Caribbean International Art Exhibition in 1956. The exhibition was organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston to celebrate the work of contemporary artists living in the areas surrounding the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea: Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Puerto Rico, Surinam, Trinidad, Venezuela, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. The exhibition was large, with over 160 works, including paintings, sculpture, and ceramics.

Gulf Caribbean International Art Exhibition, June 3–July 13, 1956
Southern Methodist University, Hamon Arts Library, Bywaters Special Collections Gift of Dr. Richard Bywaters and Mrs. Jerry Bywaters Cochran

It was also sponsored by Brown & Root, Inc., a heavy engineering and construction company, which allowed for ten purchase prizes for MFA Houston. Prizes were awarded to six foreign and four American artists. The three top $1,000 prizes went to Alejandro Obregon of Colombia; Cundo Bermudez of Havana, Cuba; and Seymour Fogel of Austin, Texas (“Foreigners Take Over Art Prizes,” Dallas Morning News, April 5, 1956).

Gulf Caribbean International Art Exhibition, June 3–July 13, 1956
Southern Methodist University, Hamon Arts Library, Bywaters Special Collections Gift of Dr. Richard Bywaters and Mrs. Jerry Bywaters Cochran

The DMFA installation of the exhibition, which traveled to four other venues after it closed in Dallas, was considered to be “as invigorating a treat that has come our way in many seasons. There is creative taste in its selection (and creative display)” (“Collection Has Talent to Spare,” Dallas Morning News, June 3, 1956). The author of the article continues the compliment: “the uniformly high level of quality in the paintings [is] matched for a change in the sculpture and ceramic entries with favorites hard to come by.” The exhibition would be remembered and noted as one of the most important exhibitions of 1956 in both Seventy-five Years of Art in Dallas (1978) by Jerry Bywaters and Now / Then / Again: Contemporary Art in Dallas 1949-1989 (1989) by Richard R. Brettell.

Gulf Caribbean International Art Exhibition, June 3–July 13, 1956
Southern Methodist University, Hamon Arts Library, Bywaters Special Collections Gift of Dr. Richard Bywaters and Mrs. Jerry Bywaters Cochran

I hope you have found this 1956 visit to the Gulf and Caribbean eye-catching and interesting as well.

Hillary Bober is the Archivist at the DMA. 

 

 

Art as Spectacle

With all of the exciting openings and events currently taking place at the Museum, it’s interesting to pause and take a look back at installations from our past—especially this one highly ambitious execution that included a lagoon!

David McCullough, Baggie Mantra Sanctorum March, June 12, 1971

On Saturday, June 12, 1971, artist David McCullough executed a performance sculpture around and in the Fair Park Lagoon.

McCullough conceived of the project as a one-act play to be “performed” by himself and his assistants. Musicians were also on-site improvising music in reaction to the performance.

David McCullough, Baggie Mantra Sanctorum March, June 12, 1971

The sculpture consisted of large plastic bags filled with clear or colored water connected by a nylon cord. The performance consisted of a procession of the baggies from the far side of the lagoon, across the water, and along the bank, ending at the Museum steps. The sculpture remained on view for about a week after the performance.

David McCullough, Baggie Mantra Sanctorum March, June 12, 1971

David McCullough, Baggie Mantra Sanctorum March, June 12, 1971

More information about the work can be found in the press release.

Hillary Bober is the Archivist at the Dallas Museum of Art. 

We’ve Come a Long Way!

Since 1977 the International Council of Museums (ICOM) has promoted an annual International Museum Day, on or around May 18, to highlight how “museums are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples.” Beginning in 1992, ICOM has created a theme for the annual event. The theme for 2018 is Hyperconnected museums: New approaches, new publics.

With this theme in mind, I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at one of the DMA’s earliest attempts at hyperconnectivity, our forays onto the Internet.

In 1993 the DMA was one of the first museums to go online with a gopher site, a text-based site of menus and documents, and a listing on Compuserve, the first major online services provider. The Museum also acquired two email addresses for staff to use, monitored by library staff members.

DMA website, circa 1994-1998, Homepage

DMA website, circa 1994-98

In January 1994 the DMA launched its first website. The DMA was one of the first five museums to go online with “click and view” access for visitors, presenting 200 images of collection objects. This site was hosted on University of North Texas (UNT) web servers. The DMA site was named one of the 1001 best Internet sites by PC Computing magazine in December 1995.

DMA website, circa 1998-2003, Homepage

DMA website, circa 1998-2003

By 1996, the Museum was outgrowing its UNT site and created an Internet Committee to evaluate the website and brainstorm content and ideas for what the site could be. This work resulted in the launch of a new website on DMA servers with a DMA domain name, DallasMuseumofArt.org, in the summer of 1998.

DMA website, circa 2003-08, homepage

DMA website, circa 2003-08

Since this time, the DMA website has continued to evolve in design and with new technological capabilities. The website underwent major redesigns in 2003, 2008-09, 2013 and, most recently, summer 2017 with the new enhanced Collections Online. All of these redesigns had the goal of providing more content and general information for the Museum’s multiple audiences in an easier-to-use package. DMA.org will continue to evolve with these same goals for future users.

DMA website, circa 2008-13, homepage

DMA website, circa 2008-13

Hillary Bober is the Archivist at the Dallas Museum of Art.

The Mayer Library Collects: Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA

Of the work we do in the library, one of the most enjoyable is collection development…  A.K.A buying books! Materials purchased for the library’s collection primarily support research on the DMA’s encyclopedic collection and exhibitions. One of the most significant areas in which the library collects is exhibition catalogues published by museums and galleries from all over the world. Exhibition catalogues provide current research, photographs, and documentation of works of art, and function as primary sources of historical information for scholars.

A great example of this is the recent purchase of over 20 catalogues from the Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA exhibition program. Pacific Standard Time (PST) is a collaborative program established in 2011 that brings Southern California arts institutions together to present exhibitions on a particular theme connected to the Los Angeles region. Previous iterations were Art in L.A. 1945-1980 and Modern Architecture in L.A. The 2017-2018 PST iteration, LA/LA, explored Latin American and Latino art, featuring art from ancient times to the present across a variety of disciplines.

The catalogues from this series of exhibitions will serve as authoritative resources for the study of Latin American art at the DMA. For example, the exhibition Golden Kingdoms: Luxury and Legacy in the Ancient Americas featured the DMA’s Incan checkboard tunic, which is also discussed in the catalogue (page 172, catalog no. 73).

And there were two career survey exhibitions for artists in the DMA collection: Valeska Soares and Adriana Varejão.

Here are a few more highlights:

You can see a list of all the Pacific Standard Time catalogues held by the Mayer Library here.

The Mayer Library is open to the public. Check the library’s page on DMA.org for current hours.

 

Jenny Stone is the Librarian at the DMA.

A Dallas Arts Patroness . . . Identified

This photo has been popular in Museum histories for a long time. It was used in the book Seventy-Five Years of Art in Dallas: The History of the Dallas Art Association and the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (1978) by Jerry Bywaters; the 90th Anniversary Timeline; and the 2003 Centennial history exhibition, and she has always been identified as a “Dallas arts patroness.”

The panel of the image from the 2003 exhibition currently hangs in the Archives. When curators come down, they always search to see if any of the paintings in the photo are part of the collection, though nothing is familiar. I have always thought that the paintings in the photo were from one of the Dallas Art Association’s (DAA) early annual exhibitions, but I had no idea which one. Then I came across a memo that identified the painting at her feet as an Albert Pinkham Ryder work that was to be part of the 2002 Gilded Age exhibition touring from the Smithsonian American Art Museum. I was thrilled with this clue because now I could search the digitized exhibition catalogues and figure out the exhibition to at least date the photo.

It turns out that the painting in the photo was not the one in the exhibition, but a different Ryder painting of a ship at sea. Using books on Ryder from the library, I was able to identify the work as Ryder’s painting The Waste of Waters is Their Field, now in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum.

Albert Pinkham Ryder (American, 1847-1917). The Waste of Waters is Their Field, early 1880s. Oil on panel, 11 5/16 x 12 in. (28.8 x 30.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, John B. Woodward Memorial Fund, 14.556 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 14.556_SL1.jpg)

With the new information, I could search for this painting in the digitized catalogues. I identified the exhibition as being from the Third Annual Exhibition: American Art from the Days of the Colonists to Now, held by the DAA at the Adolphus Hotel’s Palm Garden, November 16-30, 1922.

By using the exhibition checklist in the catalogue, with a bit of library and internet searching, I was able to definitively identify two of the other works in the photo, with educated guesses on two others. The oval painting is Mother and Child: A Modern Madonna by George de Forest Brush, also in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum.

George de Forest Brush (American, 1855-1941). Mother and Child: A Modern Madonna, 1919. Oil on canvas, 43 1/2 x 35 5/8 in. (110.5 x 90.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Collection Fund and by subscription, 19.93 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 19.93_transp3194.jpg)

The painting leaning on the settee below it is Arthur B. Davies’ Banquet to a Hero, identified from the article “Davies the Absolute” by F. Newlin Price in the June 1922 issue of International Studio.

F. Newlin Price, “Davies the Absolute,” International Studio LXXV, no. 301, June 1922, p. 213-19.

Now I had the exhibition and date, but I still had no idea who the “patroness” was. Time for a different tactic.

The exhibition was curated for the DAA by Robert MacBeth of the MacBeth Gallery, and being a good archivist, I went searching for records from the gallery in hopes of finding a new clue. I found the records at the Archives of American Art. Using the digitized scrapbooks from the MacBeth Gallery Records, I found a whole section of news clippings related to the Dallas exhibition in the 1922 scrapbook.

I was flipping through these pages, when all of a sudden, there was my patroness photo!

MacBeth Gallery Records, Archives of American Art, Scrapbook 8, 1922 January-1924 December.

The photo illustrated the November 13, 1922, Dallas Times Herald article “Noted Concert Singer Delighted Over Collection of Art Treasures in Dallas.” The concert singer is Madame Louise Homer. She knew Robert MacBeth from his New York gallery and he invited her to preview the exhibition while in Dallas for a performance at the coliseum. So, the woman in the photo is technically an art patroness, just not a Dallas one.

The other paintings in the photo are also identified in the article, and I am happy to say that my educated guesses were correct.

This was a fun research project to work on, and happily it resulted in definitive answers and a mystery solved—if only they were all like that.

Hillary Bober is the Archivist at the Dallas Museum of Art. 


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